SVJI’s Rural Technical Assistance Project brings people, knowledge, and resources together to develop real solutions for rural communities addressing sexual violence. The collaborative approach we take means tools, trainings, and conferences designed for rural spaces and tailored assistance to meet your community’s specific needs. 

Our Rural Realities blog is a space to reflect, connect, and share about the work of coordinated sexual assault responses with others doing similar work across the United States. Please contact Johnanna Ganz ( with any rural related needs or questions.

Please share your thoughts and responses to blog posts via the comment function. Any comments that are deemed inappropriate (e.g. derogatory or inflammatory) will be deleted. 

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  • April 28, 2017 8:19 AM | Anonymous

    You’re probably looking at that title and thinking, “Whoa, Ganz. What’s this full spectrum concept?” Or you might be thinking of a line that looks like this:


    Think of the spectrum of sexual violence as overlapping bubbles. Because sexual violence takes a lot of shapes and forms. It looks different in every context. Here’s an idea of what that might look like:

    There are overlaps in each and some violence is distinct from others. Think of visual as all that can be seen; for instance: pornography, image exploitation (revenge porn), flashing. Verbal is sexual violence through communication; examples might be street harassment/cat calling, sexting, name calling, or crude/demeaning jokes. Physical is anything that includes touching of physical bodies, by any other object or person. There can be overlap among only two or all three areas. Sexual violence is a more all-encompassing term and the spectrum really gets to the heart of rape culture.  Helping your team to understand the whole range of behaviors that affect victim/survivors can assist in addressing sexual violence holistically in the community.

    It’s easy for folks to focus in on one type of sexual violence over any other. Some communities prioritize sexual violence against children, some focus on assaults by strangers, some focus on other types. However, in your Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), I want to encourage you to get your team thinking broadly about how to handle the many types and contexts of sexual violence that happens in your community. This is easier said than done, but it is a necessary shift if we want to reach the most marginalized victim/survivors in our communities.

    If you have thoughts, questions, or comments on this blog, leave them in the comments! 

  • April 19, 2017 8:34 AM | Anonymous

    When talking about focusing on sexual violence and working together as a team to address sexual violence, the Resource Sharing Project has some great guides for advocacy agencies, especially those providing dual or multi-services in their programs. They are a rural grantee TA provider and can assist with a range of issues facing programs and communities, especially for those working to strengthen sexual violence support services.

    Do you have any useful tools and resources focusing on and strengthening sexual assault services in your area? Let us know in the comments! 

  • April 12, 2017 3:10 PM | Anonymous

    Growing up, my friends and I didn’t know a whole lot about sexual and domestic violence. Even though violence happened, no one really talked about it openly. If people did talk, it was about the city or movies or video games. For my friends and me, when we heard about sexual violence, it was a case of overhearing adults talking about those things as events that happened in other places—not in our rural community. When I first started working in victim advocacy, one of the hardest things I had to learn was that sexual violence happened in my community and that I personally knew the people that were victim/survivors and the perpetrators. It’s hard; it’s one of the harder parts of being in a small community doing this work.

    Through my work as a national technical assistance provider, I have found that all over the country, communities have similar conversations as ours did. People are often afraid, unwilling, or unsure of how to address the fact that sexual violence happens in their communities, their places of worship, their workplaces, or in their family/friend networks. SART leaders talk to me before trainings and ask how I can help get folks to see the realities of what’s happening around them. There are no easy answers or quick fixes—I wish there were. However, here are some ideas about how to approach the conversation with folks in the community.

    • Define “sexual violence” in accessible ways. Often times, folks have a belief that sexual violence is strangers jumping out of alleys and bushes. Talk about the range of behaviors that are sexually violent and make sure they get what you mean.
    • Normalize the conversation. Work with rural leader, other non-profits, faith communities, etc. to say that it does happen here and what that might look like in your community. Help to break the silence and stigma; help others make space for people to come forward and get help.
    • Personalize sexual violence. I’m not saying make it about someone’s victimization or share confidential information about other victim/survivors. Rather, help people understand sexual violence victim/survivors (and perpetrators) as people that you know, love, and/or see frequently.
    • ·Use logic and numbers. Give the stats around sexual violence in communities. Talk about some of the unique elements of reporting in a rural community that may change how that number looks in your community. If 1 in 4 women and 1 in 33 men and 1 in 2 trans-identified folks experience sexual violence, math says that it’s happening in your community.
    • Give people time to change their perceptions. Learning about and talking about sexual violence is hard. You know this. I know this. People usually need time to make sense of hard information.
    • Show compassion, even if you think they are wrong. Honestly? This is still a struggle for me. Yet, I find that if I approach people (leaders, teams, communities) with compassion and acknowledge the struggle they must experience when faced with the scope of violence, we both walk away from the conversation with doors open. When I get frustrated or condescending or disengage negatively, people don’t come back to the conversation when they most need to. Show compassion, speak the truth, and set the stage for other people to authentically engage.
    How about you folks? How have you gotten community and team members on-board with recognizing that sexual violence happens here? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments!

  • April 05, 2017 10:32 AM | Anonymous

    Image result for SAAM ribbonIt’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)! This is the month where a lot of folks engage in outreach and education events. Most of these are aimed at the public. However, those who do work in and around sexual assault/violence can also use this month as a platform to do activism, education, outreach, and systems change. SAAM isn’t just for advocacy groups. Your Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) can use SAAM as a time to do more good work!

    So, SART friends, weigh in: how does or how can you engage your SART in SAAM events? What things have you accomplished or projects you’ve begun using the energy and momentum of SAAM? Add your ideas, examples, and questions to the comments! 

  • March 29, 2017 11:46 AM | Anonymous

    As sexual assault response teams (SARTs) and other multi-disciplinary teams work through best practices and approaches to sexual assault cases, teams begin to see patterns of victim and systems responder behaviors. One of these patterns revolves around the issue of substance use, and so, it is important to address some examples of what that might look like in your area. We’ve already addressed victim blame this month, so I won’t get into that here. When it comes to practices and protocols, I’ve seen two major themes emerge from these discussions in the team setting: (1) legality and consumption, (2) victim choices. Let’s dig a little deeper on each.

    1.  Legality and consumption of substances continues to be a barrier when reporting sexual violence. What might this look like? It might be that a victim took an illegal substance prior to the assault or was drinking while underage. Similarly, friends might be hesitant to help report an assault or help a victim/survivor get services if they think they may face consequences for violating laws around substance use. People—victims or others—being afraid that substance uses will be prioritized over the act of sexual violence results in fewer reports/service seeking behaviors of much more serious crimes. I’ve worked with victim/survivors who waited months/years to report because at the time they were afraid of getting in trouble for something. They also feared that systems responders would blame them for their assaults, because they had willingly engaged in substance use. This take us to the next theme for teams to consider when working on protocols and policies for team members.

    2. Victim choices regarding substance use can be used by perpetrators as a tool to prevent reporting or seeking services. Further, teams can sometimes begin to focus on victims’ choices and question the legitimacy of an assault. Whether a victim chooses to consume substances does not change that an assault occurred. If systems providers get “stuck” on victim choices around substance, this can create a chilling effect—an effect that reduces, discourages, or delays reporting. It’s important to prepare and develop policies around working with victims who have consumed substances. This might be a script or a formal policy that indicates that victims and those trying to aid victims will not experience legal sanctions for the consumption of substances and the services will focus on the assault.

    Both of these themes present barriers to reporting sexual violence if the team does not discuss how to best handle these realities. In either case, best practice is to prioritize the crime of sexual violence that has occurred. In teams I’ve lead or worked with, it is important to get law enforcement and prosecution on-board with not charging for crimes related to substance use, because they hold power in this context.

    Teams should focus their efforts on prioritizing sexual violence crimes over substance use in order to reduce barriers to reporting and service seeking.

    Now that we’ve opened up this topic, what have you seen on your teams? How have you kept team members focused on prioritizing sexual violence over substance use? 

    Any helpful tips or questions, leave them in the comments! 

  • March 22, 2017 8:54 AM | Anonymous

    AEquitas’ mission is, “to improve the quality of justice in sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and human trafficking cases by developing, evaluating, and refining prosecution practices that increase victim safety and offender accountability.”

    If you are working to try to answer questions about prosecution or need training/technical assistance, AEquitas is an invaluable resource! I have attended some excellent presentations by AEquitas where they addressed the role of alcohol and prosecution. They provide concrete tips and assistance as well as foundational knowledge to help folks increase positive outcomes.  If you need help regarding any issues with prosecution, they are an outstanding resource.

    If you have other prosecution or alcohol facilitate assault resources, be sure to share them in the comments! 

  • March 15, 2017 7:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    There's still time to register for the National Institute for SART Team Leaders hosted by The Sexual Violence Justice Institute @ The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Join us in Bloomington, Minnesota, May 8-10, 2017.Space is limited to 100 participants, but you need to apply soon. To learn more, please view the brochure

    About the National Institute for SART Team Leaders

    With continued partnership and support from the Office on Violence Against Women, SVJI is excited to host the National Institute for Team Leaders taking place over 2 ½ days at the Airport Hilton in Bloomington, Minnesota, near the Mall of America.The Institute is designed for coordinators, team leaders, and state and territorial level leaders who coordinate or support local teams responding to sexual violence.

    The Institute’s primary goal is to build the capacity of team leaders to design and facilitate effective team processes. Effective team leadership is essential to a team’s overall development, and we know that it is complex, challenging, and rewarding work. Creating social change and systems improvement requires more than knowledge of best practices — it also requires the ability to influence multiple systems and agencies toward improved outcomes. The Institute will help you lead multidisciplinary teams as they design, implement, and evaluate their community’s response to sexual violence.

    For more information, view the brochure.

    What is the cost of attending?  

    There is no registration fee. Federal per diem lodging rates are $133.00 for single and double occupancy. You must make and pay for your travel and hotel arrangements AFTER you have received confirmation of registration. You are not registered until you receive a confirmation.

    Register here



    Please contact Johnanna Ganz, Rural Projects Coordinator, SVJI @ MNCASA at or 651.209.9993 x7451.

    This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K014 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.


  • March 08, 2017 8:31 AM | Anonymous

    One of the major challenges I hear from Sexual Assault Response Teams everywhere, especially if there is a campus environment, is the issue of how alcohol affects the reporting/justice processes. From issues like victim blame, to lack of knowledge about alcohol’s effects, to cultural assumptions about drinking, the SART can be trying to manage a lot while discussing the intersections between sexual violence and alcohol. I certainly don’t have any surefire answers when trying to help teams manage these conversations; it is a complex, loaded topic. While there aren’t any great answers, there are a couple of strategies that seem to be effective in managing the discussions on your teams.

    • Acknowledge the use of alcohol as a tool. Alcohol is often used as a weapon or a tool to increase another person’s vulnerability. Folks can easily get stuck on what a victim might have done, decisions they made before, during, or after the assault, etc... The questions or comments can focus singularly on victim’s actions. Bring it back to the totality of circumstance—the entire context in which the events occurred. Encourage your team to ask questions about what others in the situation were doing and the larger environment. Was the perpetrator handing drinks to the victim? Did the perpetrator know how much the victim had consumed? Did they talk about plans to get someone intoxicated in order to engage in sexual activity? Were people around the victim encouraging them to continue drinking? Did anyone offer to assist the victim in safely leaving? Get your team to be thinking broadly about how alcohol is used by others as a tool of coercion, force, etc. 
    • Rely on curiosity. Instead of responding with shock, anger, or whatever else might immediately come to mind, consider approaching the victim-blaming with curiosity. Engage the person/people with the goal of learning more about why they may hold that opinion. Coming at the situation without judgment, you can leave more space for discussion and exploration of the issues. You also model positive ways to handle difficult conversations. which leaves the door open for people to change their minds.
    • Bring it back to your mission/purpose. If victim blame and alcohol become an issue for your team, consider pushing your team to think about their mission/purpose. Why does your team get together? My guess is it’s to help improve outcomes and experiences for victims. Sometimes, folks dig their heels in when you are pushing them from other angles. So, re-establish your mission and ask how this belief/approach might (or might not) fit in with your team's mission and purpose.
    • Making it personal vs. agency positions. There are times when it is useful to ask the person, “Is this a personal position or are you speaking on behalf of your agency's position?” When working on a SART, it can be easy to forget that you represent an agency or entire discipline. Reminding the team that each of you are there to speak on behalf of the agencies/disciplines, not on their personal beliefs can be a really useful strategy to address victim blame (among other issues!).

    These are just a few strategies for addressing victim-blame when discussing alcohol and sexual violence. If you have thoughts, questions, or other useful strategies, please share them in the comments! 

  • March 01, 2017 8:56 AM | Anonymous

    Maybe it’s the fact that Saint Patrick ’s Day is coming up. Maybe it’s the steadily warming weather of Minnesota that makes me dream of sitting on a porch with some cold drinks on a warm summer day. Maybe it’s because it’s the month of Spring Break for a lot of college students. I’m not sure what it is, but I do know that we have to talk about alcohol facilitated sexual assault and the work of the SART.

    Without further ado, this month’s Weigh In: what is your experience with alcohol in relationship to SART work? What have been your successes or challenges in addressing alcohol facilitated assaults?

    Leave it in the comments!  

  • February 16, 2017 9:43 AM | Anonymous

    Sexual Assault Response Teams have a challenging and important role. That is why the Sexual Violence Justice Institute at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault has made it a priority to provide eLearning resources you and your team can utilize to assess and improve both the criminal justice system and victim experience. Are We Making A Difference? is an interactive do-it-yourself guide to evaluation. It includes a variety of resources to help you make the case for evaluation, learn the basics, gain evaluation skills, and access tools to make the task easier.

    Check out these interactive online learning materials at:


    This project was supported, in part, by grant number A-SMART-2014-MNCASA-00004 awarded by the Office of Justice Programs, Minnesota Department of Public Safety and by grant number 2013-TA-AXK014 and 2007-TA-AX-K011 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, nor the Office of Justice Programs, Minnesota Department of Public Safety.


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This project is supported by Grant Number 2015-TA-AX-K014 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this content are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. 

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